For the gift you have, persist!
(A synopsis of All Pakistan Aspiring Writers’ Convention, 2013 at LUMS)
So! That entire furor over the hot LUMS writing competition and almost everyone asking one another, “yar ap ne LUMS ke lie writing submit kara di?” finally did end and the event took place on Sunday, March 31, 2013. For those who couldn’t make it to the gathering, here is a gist of what happened there (Focusing majorly on the productive discussions by some literary people)
Initially, there was a panel discussion scheduled on the topic “'How Creative Writing Can Serve Both as a Passion and a Source of living.”, the speakers for the panel being Ali Usman Qasmi, Farrukh Khan and Aysha Raja, plus CEO of Ferozesons publishers was among them too (As far as I can recall)
The speakers sat in front of everyone and began the conversation with one another like we usually get to see in talk shows. One person acted like a host and the others as guests. Here are a few pieces of their conversation I found nice and informative and jotted them down. (I actually kept on scribbling throughout :P and some people thought I was playing games on my cell -_- )
Question: So let’s begin with the topic Sir. What do you think should literature be considered as? A source of money or is it all about passion?
Answer: Well, The writers in the past have had both benefits out of it. People like Mirza Ghalib, Minto did make both ends meet with the support of their literature. Today still, we have commercial fiction writers on international scale as well. It’s been more of a business nowadays, I mean look at Harry Potter series and its author J. K. Rowling being the first ever billionaire by writing fiction. So in a vast perspective, there isn’t any harm in being a commercial fiction writer as such. But there is always a need of passion in this reign. You just cannot exert the best out of you if you lack passion. Even if you aim to earn through your writings, you cannot achieve it without a passionate instinct. So both passion and money go hand in hand esp. in a country like Pakistan where there isn’t that much scope of being a writer unless you opt it as a profession. Otherwise, all your relatives and known ones would always end up mourning on your apparent grim future at the hands of literature as an occupation. And you would always witness such statements floating in the air around you, “Yar is becharey ka pata nai kya baney ga!!”, “Na doctor ban saka, na engineer, bechara likhari ban gya… tsk tsk tsk”. So a writer has to keep himself motivated and that comes through passion most of the time. Since possessing a professional degree in the first place is the top most priority of every wise person today as it secures your future, there is no harm in letting a tinge of commercialism hit a life of a writer. But without passion it’s futile. So develop passion first and the new gates of hope will definitely open for you. If you don’t do something you love, you are actually ignoring the very importance of the gift you have been bestowed with. As a recipient of such gifts from God, you need to polish your blessings esp. when they are artistic skills like writing. So persevere. For the gift you have, PERSIST! No matter how difficult it is for you, because at the end of the day only those succeed who satisfy and fulfill their passion in real sense; who follow their dreams.
(A person from the audience says): But it has been observed that financial ease is more likely to allow you develop and nurture a passion in you, because if your appetite isn’t satiated, you can’t enjoy any zeal. So both schools of thought exist.
Question: Nowadays we don’t see that much of a variety and versatility in genres of Urdu literature. English literature seems to be much more in fashion nowadays. Why is this feeling of deterioration of Urdu literature prevailing in the literary circles, Sir? What’s wrong with Urdu and its charm? I happened to visit Punjab University Book Fair and I had a monotonous feeling of seeing the same old books of Umaira Ahmad, Saghar Siddique, etc. (not criticizing anyone at all) I mean where has that sense of creativity gone in Urdu? Moreover, people don’t seem to be interested in buying books in general. Why is that so?
Answer: See, although I may not have that much of an insight into Urdu language, but one thing that I have observed across the globe esp. western countries that there are big publishers in the market and then there are those small ones. The latter strive hard to own an identity and value in the market but, sooner or later, the bigger publishing companies conventionally buy the smaller ones. And with that, their monopoly may come into play and monotony is most likely to follow afterwards in their publication styles since they seem to engage in a one man show in the publication markets.
As far as that issue of people not buying books is concerned, that’s very obvious for we do not have as much of the incentives as other modernized and highly educated countries provide. Quoting a survey, there are almost 200 functional libraries in almost every big city of the west. Here we do not have even 20 of them worth spending time in. And that surge of Information technology is encroaching upon our sense of reading books as well.
(Someone from a crowd rises and adds to the answer)
And this upsurge of Internet and other online stuff isn’t really hurting the expression because it helps you go global and the bookish literature is also being transformed to other means like Films, Audios, Plays, etc. So it’s actually transforming from one form to another and hence the evolution.
(I rise and ask :P)
Question: Sir, as we know this era is not the same as that of Habib Jalib, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Allama Iqbal or Faiz Ahmad Faiz when literature was the point of focus and interest of all categories of people. And thus, revolutionary ideas could hold the grounds firm via literature. Sir, do you think in this age of science and technology, literature has that power to invoke revolution as it did in those old days?
Answer: Agreed. It sure does. It all depends on the circumstances around you and your very perception about the literature itself… It did back then; it can do today as well.
Question: Nowadays, amateur writers seem to be confused about the language they want to expression in. Esp. the new young lot tends to think in their regional languages, say Urdu or Punjabi, but want to write in English. Why do you think is there a difference between inception and expression?
Answer: There is no harm as such in thinking in Urdu and wanting to write in English. But still what’s preferable is that one should always express in the language he is most comfortable in. What matters is the quality and depth of expression, the languages don’t really matter that much. So avoid being in any language-inferiority-complex. If you think you should write in English just because this language has more market value than Urdu, then that is unwise of you. Do what your heart says. Don’t fear the market value. If you are comfortable in writing Punjabi, go with it. Once you take the initiative, the market value would build up. Set the template for it first.
Question: Any word of advice you want to give to our youth today?
Answer: The message is very simple and basic. One very important thing is that we must read far more than we write. Writing gives you the opportunity to convey your thoughts to the world, but reading actually broadens your horizons and keeps you abreast of the things going on in the world. So read a lot.
Feed your soul before you feed your belly, that is follow your dreams and fulfill your passion. Don’t just always think about money. “Aj kal koi bhooka nai marta :P, ab itni bhi koi baat nahi” If you have skills, you won’t ever die of hunger. So have faith. Take risks. Have a sense of humour. Be natural and confident. Be yourself in whatever you do.
Then the next session begins...
TOPIC: Why is poetry important? An artistic and pragmatic defense!
A lecture by Dr Nauman ul Haq (Man of the evening for me)
He certainly did make an ocean of deep thoughts flow through all of us throughout. But following are some worth mentioning points I could gather from his talking (putting them in bullets):
- - In the creative phenomenon of poetry, we build our own universe. But it’s not only that poetry makes us dwell in our own euphoria; it also induces in us the courage and ability to understand the practical life.
شاعری کے تخلیقی عمل میں ہم اپنی کائنات بناتے ہیں۔
- - In poetry, ecstatic understand is more vital than lexical comprehension.
شاعری میں عقلی سمجھ سے زیادہ اہم وجدانی سمجھ ہے- اچھی شاعری صوتی، معانوی اور وجدانی اعتبار سے ایک الگ مقام رکھتی ہے-
- - It is impossible to defend poetry.
شاعری کا دفاع ممکن نہیں-
- - The aim of education is not only the acquisition of wealth. If your primary concern is attainment of money, then go to my car mechanic and work in his workshop. I bet he makes more money than a lot of learned people around. See, that’s the difference between Einstein/Newton and my illiterate car mechanic. He doesn't even know the laws of motion or equations of equilibrium but still manages to rectify my car so adeptly that I can’t imagine. So knowledge doesn't always have to bring money, it has to bring satisfaction along as well. And that’s the key. People who are confused about the importance of poetry are actually not clear about the whole concept. Once they get the point, they would themselves experience manifold benefits out of it. The biggest victims of this bewilderment are we Pakistanis. They don’t say this for fun, “Pakistanis can’t explain themselves.” They are damn true. Look at ourselves. The way we have deteriorated ourselves by not understanding things. No society can flourish without a competent intelligentsia. And poetry can be one of the biggest influences on that cream, if they’ve got receptive minds. And they usually do, for they are not elite without any reason.
تعلیم کا مقصد صرف حصول زر نہیں- اصل میں لوگوں کو شاعری کی سمجھ نہیں ہے۔ جب تفہیم ہو جائے گی تو گوں نہ گوں فوائد ہوں گے- اس لئے شاعری کے گنجینئہ معانی کے طلسم کو سمجھئیے۔
- - There is not much of a difference between science and literature. The notion of there being big differences between the two is just a rumour. See, you go to a chemistry lab or some textile mill and work with machines, do you think its mere science? No! Those machines and laboratories don’t make science. They are just a part of the flow of sense of research which you practice in status quo. And there the sense of poetry matches your perceptible scenario. This is the attitude of poetry. It’s precise just as science.
سائینس اور ادب والوں کا کام مختلف نہیں ہے- مشینوں اور لیبارٹریوں سے سائینس نہیں بنتی- وہ تو صرف ایک تحقیقی رویے کا حصہ ہیں- اور یہی رویہ شاعری کا رویہ ہے-
- - Do we ponder upon why there was a need to put rhymes in Quran? What was the need to make it sound melodious when it’s being recited? Why wasn’t the prosaic style preferred? Yes! The answer is to make the hearer absorb its essence and get the utter influence out of it in no time. It’s human nature. So here is our own Creator clearly practicing the importance of sense of poetry in our own Holy Scripture Quran. Moreover, in general, no scripture can be relished and understood in true sense without there being a basic sense of poetry in it. The flow, the rhymes, the manner, all makes it worth reading and listening to. The poetic sense assists us humans in understanding the words of heaven.
کبھی سوچا کہ کیا ضرورت تھی قرآن میں قافئیے لانے کی؟ نثری انداز کو کیوں نہ اپنایا گیا؟ جی ہاں! تاکہ بات دل میں اتر جائے- یہی اسلوب ہوتا ہے- اور کسی بھی صحیفے کو شاعرانہ اسلوب کے بغیر نہیں
سمجھا جا سکتا-
- - Poetry helps us comprehend the concept of “alienation”. For instance, if I manufacture shampoo in a factory but my mother uses soap to wash her head at home (implying that own men are unaware of what your interests and gains out of it are), then this is Alienation. Poetic sense can be one of the very effective tools in making a nation realize its capabilities and how to use them productively for its own welfare.
- - Logic is not life. Life is richer than logic.
- - I am very fed up of Bollywood as in its role in leaving no stone unturned in devastating our languages. Urdu, for instance, is at stake. The point of worry is that our own words are stolen by those intrusions. They take it, modify it in the worst of manners, and then the same word re-enters its original language in its badly altered form. For instance, we now usually utter blatantly, “Ap tension na len”. See, tension was never an Urdu word. It’s been borrowed blindly from English. And the worst part is that we erroneously speak this as well, “Don’t take tension” :P . Now “Tension” is a word that travelled from English to Urdu and then re-entered English in its spoiled form which is very common nowadays and no one dares realize this fact. *REST IN PEACE, OUR SENSE OF LANGUAGE*
- - Not every change is a good change ;)
- - There is a difference between “Lack” and “Absence”. “Absence” is a neutral term. “Lack” is something which is not there but was supposed to be there in the first place. So the poetic sense is not “Absent”, we actually “Lack” it.
- - If you hate what you do, you are a TERRORIST. So never exert yourself. Do what you want to. Follow your dreams. Select your profession sensibly according to your aptitude and will, not by force. When I see people doing what they don’t want to, I recite this verse in agony:
منہ دیکھ دیکھ روتے ہیں کس بے بسی سے ہم
- - It’s a matter of concern that nowadays the cream of the students become doctors or engineers, the average ones get to do stuff like B.Sc., B.Com, etc., and the ones who can’t make it to such longed-for professional degrees study literature as the last resort. It kills me to see this situation. We must make literature a part and parcel of our lives.
صرف اسفلسافلین (ہر جگہ سے ٹھکرائے ہوئے لوگ) ہی کیوں ادب پڑھتے ھیں؟
- - Just want to share an incident with you people about the demise of standard and quality of sense of literature among us as a nation. Although I claim that poetry and literature is in me, it’s a part of my personality but still I suggest a few of our institutes must be banned/closed for what they have been doing with literature as a whole. And since I, who considers himself as a man of literature, am saying this, my opinion must carry weight for all of you. So here is the incident:
I happened to visit a library in a renowned department of Punjab University. I was searching for a book. That place had such a vast collection of books but the condition of the venue was pathetic. I could see swamps of water in patches on the floor here and there. *This shouldn’t be the atmosphere of what we call a library* I found my book and took it to the person on the reception who was busy cleaning his teeth in an awfully repulsive manner. I requested him to issue that book by the stamp he might have. In an air of unwillingness, he turned towards me. I gave him the book. He opened it rashly. There was a page half-torn in there. The torn piece flew in air and landed on the floor in front of him. That man did not even bother to collect that piece and respect it by at least picking it up for me (or for himself at least). He ignored that and just banged the stamp onto the book and said “Len gee! Ho gai issue ap ki kitaab”. And I was shocked at all this. Out of shame and embarrassment, I myself picked that piece of paper from the floor and put it in the book. I went home, bought a scotch tape and pasted it in its original place.
So the point is that we lack care and respect for our literature. How can we even think of excelling in this very crucial department of life? The department which designs our thoughts and personalities, Alas!
- - TO BE HUMAN IS TO FREE TO CREATE! And poetic sense has a vital role in making us humans.
- - The Pragmatic defense of poetry must remain LAME!
- - Cutting the long story short, what we can and must do is to keep up hope and have faith while playing our part in this society.
کریں گے اہل نظر تازہ بستیاں اباد
The prize distribution ceremony was a bit disappointing, not just because none of KE participants could make it :P but also because they considered only one prize in each category L Plus they never told us on what criteria they actually judged the writings from all over Pakistan. Sighs! Nevertheless, I still managed to imbibe something out of nothing, and that I have written all above for those friends who think they missed it ;)
And then there was a “refreshment” session with a mere samosa and a cup of tea (Yeah! That’s all I could get my hands on in that crowd :P ) And then we went Idher Udher gossiping and complaining about the lack of eatables in “refreshment” :D and, of course touring LUMS ^_^
(Syed Ahmad Raza)